Did you know retail and drugstores are no longer returning your original film?
Big-name drugstores like CVS and Walgreens still develop film, but the days of 1-hour photo processing are long gone. Today, nearly all the big box stores send the film to third-party labs, with turnaround time ranging from three to five days at Walgreens and two to three weeks at CVS. Even more important, they no longer return the negatives, only providing your images as scans on a CD. Discarding negatives may be okay for the person with disposable cameras, but is a major drawback for the film enthusiast or the “found film” people.
Found film is actually a pretty big market for The Darkroom and its people finding an undeveloped roll of film in a drawer or the attic. These mystery time capsules can potentially contain images with huge sentimental value. Negatives are the foundation of shooting film and an important part of the traditional printing process. A low-quality scan of something sentimental or of an important subject is not an adequate replacement to the original film or “file”.
Retailers Who Develop Film and Who Returns Negatives
Costco film developing
In visiting our local Costco, we discovered that they’re no longer developing film. We were told by a photo lab employee that “we recently pulled their film processing equipment out of every building”. Costco doesn’t even develop film online through their Costco Photo Center website.
Over a year ago, Kelvin Wang started a petition for Costco to start developing film again, but it hasn’t gotten much support.
WalMart film developing
Walmart is no longer returning negatives to save on postage costs and only providing customers scanned images on a CD. In researching, Walmart film developing services vary from each store or region and this may not be company-wide policy. Many of the stores have completely stopped processing film and, like Costco, maybe in the process of phasing out film processing entirely.
Sam’s Club film developing
In nearly all the stores, Sam’s Club stopped developing film in late 2013. Additionally, they don’t have in-store photo mailers and film development cannot be ordered or purchased online.
Walgreens film developing
Over 800 people a month Google “does Walgreens develop film“. It’s been reported that Walgreens stopped film processing on April 16th of 2015 and is using a 3rd party service. Using this service, Walgreens doesn’t return your negatives and it’s likely this 3rd party service destroys your negatives after scanning them. Walgreens film development cannot be ordered or purchased online.
Target film developing
Target removed the Kodak processing machines from many of its stores and now offers a print-only photo center for those with digital files. This is true with our local Target, but may not be true with all stores.
CVS Pharmacy film developing
Not all CVS stores develop film and the ones that do are sending directly to 3rd party services. Negatives aren’t returned and orders take about 3 weeks. Additionally, CVS has stopped online film developing.
CVS Pharmacy processes film but doesn’t return film negatives
If you choose not to develop with The Darkroom, we suggest that you verify with the individual store, whether it’s Costco, Walgreens, Walmart, Target, Sam’s Club, CVS, or any other large retailer to confirm the send-out processing service returns your negatives.
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